By Harold C. Ford
Area student performance in the first post-pandemic year, 2022-2023, offers a mixture of good and bad news, according to data provided by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), with Flint students showing a small gain in one area and losses in two others.
In all three cases, Flint area student performances were far below state percentages, consistent with the numbers before the pandemic.
Data collected during 2022-2023 roughly showed an equivalent number of area schools posting gains and losses in the following categories: proficiency in English Language Arts (ELA) at the end of third grade; Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) total score; and SAT college and career readiness benchmarks.
Flint area students showed a small increase in ELA proficiency, from seven to nine percent; a decline in SAT scores from 775 to 750 — compared to a state-wide average of 960 and 958 respectively; and career readiness at 5 percent, down from 10 percent in 2021-22.
The MDE is reporting results of recent assessments in “key education areas” for public and charter schools in : during the year. Voluminous assessment data is available at the MDE MI School Data website.
After suspension of some assessments during the COVID-19 pandemic era – roughly 2019-20 through 2020-2121 – several suspended assessments resumed in 2022-23 school year in Michigan. Some of the most recent data for many area schools and districts are reported in the table found below.
Many educators would argue that language arts mastery is essential for success in other subject areas. SAT scores that include “college and career readiness benchmarks” may signal success, or lack thereof, at the end of students’ elementary and secondary school years.
Some of the most recent assessment data, collected and reported below, begins with an average of all educational units in the state, followed by averaged data culled from public school systems in Genesee County (including public charter schools), then data from Flint Community Schools – the object of most of this magazine’s coverage of K-12 schools – and, thereafter, other schools and districts within the jurisdiction of the Genesee Intermediate School District. (Data below are rounded off to the nearest whole number. A plus sign (+) indicates an improvement over the previous reporting year; a negative sign (-) indicates a decline over the previous year; the absence of a plus or negative sign means the scores remained the same.
Students proficient in ELA at the end of third grade
All ISDs*, districts, schools in Michigan 42% 41%
All school districts in Genesee ISD 35% 35%
Flint 7% 9%
Student proficiency levels in Genesee County districts and schools:
- 10 percent or less: Flint+; Beecher-; Northridge Academy-; Richfield Academy+; Greater Heights Academy+; Eagle’s Nest Academy+
- 11-20 percent: Genesee-; Westwood Heights+; Grand Blanc Academy; International Academy+; New Standard Academy+; Mt. Morris+
- 21-30 percent: Bendle-; Lakeville-; Burton Glen Academy-; Flint Cultural Center Academy-
- 31-40 percent: Atherton+; Bentley+; Carman-Ainsworth-; Kearsley+; Montrose-; Swartz Creek; Linden Charter Academy+; Madison Academy+
- 41-50 percent: Clio-; Flushing+; Goodrich-; Grand Blanc-
- 51-60 percent: Davison-; Fenton-; Lake Fenton-; Linden-
Schools that posted double-digit declines include: Northridge Academy (-27) and Bendle (-11). Schools that posted double-digit improvements: Linden Charter Academy (+16) and Westwood Heights (+11).
SAT total score
All ISDs, districts, schools in Michigan 960 958
All school districts in Genesee ISD 933 925
Flint 776 750
SAT scores in Genesee County districts and schools:
- 700-799: Flint-; Westwood Heights+; New Standard Academy-; WAY Academy-; Madison Academy-
- 800-899: Atherton-; Beecher+; Bendle+; Bentley+; Carman-Ainsworth+; Genesee+; Montrose+; Mt. Morris+; Flex High School of Michigan; International Academy+;
- 900-999: Clio+; Davison+; Flushing-; Goodrich-; Grand Blanc-; Kearsley-; Lakeville-; Linden-; Swartz Creek-
- 1000+: Fenton+; Lake Fenton+
Schools that posted double-digit declines include: WAY Academy (-54); Goodrich (-46); Atherton (-40); New Standard Academy (-39); Mt. Morris (-33); Flint (-26); Lakeville (-26); Flushing (-23); Carman-Ainsworth (-22); Swartz Creek (-14); Grand Blanc (-13); and Linden (-10). Schools that posted double-digit improvements: Beecher (+45); Davison (+41); Clio (+33); International Academy (+28); Kearsley (+16); Bentley (+13); Fenton (+12); and Westwood Heights (+12).
SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark
All ISDs, districts, schools in Michigan 28% 28%
All school districts in Genesee ISD 22% 21%
Flint <=10% <=5%
SAT college, career readiness benchmarks in Genesee County districts and schools:
- 10 percent or less: Flint-; Atherton-; Bendle-; Carman-Ainsworth-; Genesee-; Mt. Morris-; Westwood Heights-; International Academy-; Madison Academy-
- 11-20 percent: Beecher; Bentley+; Lakeville-; Swartz Creek-; Montrose; Flex High School of Michigan
- 21-30 percent: Clio+; Flushing+; Goodrich-; Grand Blanc+; Kearsley+
- 31-40 percent: Davison+; Fenton+; Lake Fenton+
- 41 percent or more (maybe): New Standard Academy+; WAY Academy
Goodrich posted a double-digit decline (-14) and, perhaps, International Academy (<=20% in 2020-21 to <=10% in 2021-22*). No area schools posted a double-digit improvement.
[*Keys to abbreviations above: ISD, Intermediate School district; <=, less than or equal to.]
The value of assessments
The value of broad educational assessments, including testing, is vigorously debated in the education profession and elsewhere in society. Charges of bias – cultural, socioeconomic, and otherwise – in educational assessments are persistent. The MDE has responded to some of that criticism with the inclusion of data that had not been reported in earlier decades – data such as “Culture of Learning” (“free and reduced lunch participation”, “economically disadvantaged students”), “Value for Money” (“average class size K-3”, “instructional expenditures per pupil”), and “Salary Data” (for teachers, principals, and superintendents).
Despite the criticisms of standardized testing, many – government officials, educators, parents, students, and others – want to know how their schools are doing in terms of educating children. After all, billions of taxpayer dollars from three levels of government – Federal, state, and local – as well as sources of funding from other entities (foundations, donors, etc.) help fund education and many citizens are curious about the effectiveness of financial investments in education.
Beyond funding and accountability issues, parents today have plentiful choices in terms of where to send their children to school. Publicly available data, including assessments, can help in the decision-making process. The options for present-day parents in Genesee County have never been more plentiful and include:
- At least 21 public school systems (students can attend other schools outside of the district they live in via the Schools of Choice option);
- No fewer than 13 charter school academies at the elementary and/or secondary levels (Burton Glen, Burton; Eagle’s Nest, Flint; Flint Cultural Center, Flint; Flex High School, online; Grand Blanc, Grand Blanc; International, Flint; Linden Charter, Flint; Madison, Burton; Northridge, Flint; New Standard, Flint; Greater Heights, Flint; WAY, Flint);
- Eight private schools associated with the Catholic faith tradition (Powers High School, Flint; St. Thomas More, Burton; Holy Family, Grand Blanc; St. John, Fenton; St. John Vianney, Flint; St. Robert, Flushing; St. Pius X, Flint; and Holy Rosary, Flint);
- online options available in Michigan and across the U.S.;
- home schooling;
- hybrid high school-college options such as Genesee Early College (associated with UM-Flint) and Mott Middle College (associated with Mott Community College);
- attendance at institutions in other Michigan counties or other states.
And, frankly, data show that some school-age children have simply stopped attending school. Education Week reported that about 1.3 million children left the American public school system between the fall of 2019 and 2021. “That’s a student every 26 seconds,” according to the U.S. Department of Education as reported by the website dosomething.org.
While other options account for some of the public school enrollment declination, Stanford University researchers and the Associated Press “find that these explanations only account for about two-thirds of students who have left public schools since the fall of 2019.”
One local superintendent responds to assessment data, one does not
Near the conclusion of the 2022 calendar year, East Village Magazine (EVM) offered an opportunity to two area school superintendents to respond to MDE assessment data. Richard Klee, superintendent of the Beecher Community School District, shared with EVM a lengthy statement he sent to parents and staff in Nov. 2022 that said, in part:
Michigan’s school accountability systems use statewide student assessments and other quality metrics to measure school performance for all Michigan public schools. As we know, the pandemic was a generational experience that had a significant impact on learning … felt across Michigan, the country, and the whole world. (Assessment data) provide an incomplete and inaccurate picture of performance due to the exclusion of student growth data as a result of the pandemic … For a more well-rounded picture of academic achievement, our district combines multiple measures including … local assessments, assignments and projects, and other data. Be mindful that our students have dealt with a significant mental health toll due to the pandemic that impacted learning.
[The entirety of Klee’s statement may be found elsewhere in this report.]
EVM also reached out to Flint Superintendent Kevelin Jones but received no response.
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[To the reader: Significant additional assessment data can be found at the Michigan Department of Education’s MiDashboard website; space limitations restrict how much data can be presented here by East Village Magazine. Other data such as “Culture of Learning”, “Value for Money”, and school employee salary data can also be found. ]
Education reporter Harold C. Ford can be reached at email@example.com.